Michael Pineda will provide Twins with a power arm, eventually

Phil Miller, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Baseball

That scenario is helping keep Pineda motivated as he begins testing his right arm again. "It's hard when you don't play. I love pitching," he said. "I know it will take a little bit of time to get back to pitching, but this is part of the process."

Once one of the most coveted prospects in the game, Pineda has seen injuries and inconsistency combine to make his career a mild disappointment, especially given his spectacular first season with New York after being traded by Seattle. Relying on a biting slider and uncanny control, Pineda returned from shoulder surgery to post a 1.89 ERA in 13 starts in 2014, with 59 strikeouts and only seven walks in 76 innings.

But though he had moments of brilliance, including a 16-strikeout, no-walk performance against Baltimore in 2015, Pineda never again lived up to that promise, never again kept his ERA below 4.35. He appeared ready to take a step forward at the start of last season, even taking a perfect game into the seventh inning in the Yankees' home opener, but his ERA rose by more than a run over his final six rocky starts. Then, disaster -- he tore his anterior cruciate ligament on July 5 while pitching against the Blue Jays, ending his season.

"Everything was good. One moment it's fine, and then 1/8I've3/8 broken a ligament," Pineda said with a shrug. "We don't have control for that. I feel bad, but it's baseball."

He became a free agent a few months after surgery, his hopes of a rich long-term contract dashed. He feels fortunate, in fact, to find a team willing to sign him for this season, because the prospect of rehabbing on his own, then having to prove himself in tryouts, was daunting. The Twins offered $2 million for this season, and $8 million for next -- a below-market price if he can break into the rotation -- and he jumped at it.

"It's very hard. When I'm a free agent, it's tough for me, but as soon as I could get signed with the Twins, I feel better," Pineda said. "I feel way better now. I have a team, and they believe in me. I said: 'I thank you, I appreciate it.' I want to work hard and help them be a champion."

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